There’s pretty much a reason why I try to avoid Atlantic Avenue in downtown Delray Beach. Well, there are a few actually. First, parking. Public garages turn into valet only with a $10 price tag. Valet service at restaurants come with charges upwards of $20 and off-street parking is nearly impossible to find. Then theres the restaurants. With the exception of a few, most are sub-par and cater to tourists willing to pay more to eat outside or somewhere “trendy.” But “trendy” doesn’t always equal good food.
What started off as an evening to head with friends to grab a rack of ribs and a couple beers, turned into “let’s go somewhere on Atlantic!” Not wanting to be the Negative Nellie of the group, I clenched my teeth and said, “sure, where do you guys want to go?”
Next thing I know, we’re in the car driving up and down streets off the Avenue looking for a parking spot to have dinner at Cabana El Rey – a restaurant that bills itself as “Nuevo Latino.” Having no luck finding a spot, I got a text that said, “we’re here and have a table outside.” My response was, “can’t find a place to park, about to bail.”
But alas, I found a single parking space available in a metered lot across from Olio Bistro on SE 2nd Ave. After paying for the spot, we walked over to the restaurant and did the handshake and a hug thing to greet our friends.
Our server came over to introduce himself and take our drink order. Two wines, a beer for me and dining companion number four asked for a martini but questioned what the house vodka was. Our server did not know, saying “I think it starts with an F.”
After checking with the bartender, he came back and told us the house brand of vodka is Crystal Palace. For a moment I thought we were at a frat party and someone stopped at the gas station to buy the booze.
Drinks came, but my beer was warm.
It’s at this point where things went south.
Our server simply disappeared! Completely vanished.
Arrival time, 8:15pm. Drinks delivered to our table, 8:30 pm. Our server never came back to our table, nor did we even see him walking around until he came to take our order at 9:20 pm.
I joked a few times about ordering a pizza and having it delivered. I contemplated walking next door to Sloan’s and getting a banana split. We were hungry.
We finally ordered dinner and another round of drinks. When the drinks were delivered, everyone got theirs except me, but that’s not the worst part. Our server put dining companion number four’s martini glass on the table, proceeded to shake the drink in the martini shaker, and as he poured it, the lid came off the shaker and landed in the glass.
He simply took everything from the table, off to the side, proceeded to pour everything back into the shaker and re-pour it instead of having another drink made. If it were my drink, I would have refused it, but dining companion number four didn’t want to increase the pain and suffering both us and the server were experiencing.
I reminded him that he didn’t bring my beer. He brought it right over, and again, it was warm.
At 9:40 pm – nearly 90 minutes after our arrival – appetizers made an appearance. A Caesar Salad (romaine lettuce, manchego cheese, and guajillo chile Caesar dressing – $10) for dining companion number three and Tapas De Gambas (1/4 lb medium black tiger shrimp sautéed in garlic rueda wine demi glace served with Cuban pressed garlic bread – $12) for my husband and myself.
The small shrimp came out swimming in the garlicky brown sauce. They were somewhat rubbery and had an overpowering “fishy” taste to them which was a turn-off as shrimp normally don’t have a taste.
Next up were the entrees.
I went with the Parrillada (mixed grill platter; grilled chicken breast, churrasco, longaniza sausage, morcilla and Spanish chorizo – $24). I decided I could not do the link of blood sausage, so put that to the side. The other two sausage links contained a fair amount of fat, but had a good flavor to them. The churrasco steak was thin and tough. The chicken breast was the best part of this entree as it wasn’t overcooked and was juicy. Everything on the metal sizzle plate was very greasy.
My husband opted for the Empanadas (three pastry dough turnovers filled with beef picadillo – $17). While the beef filling was plentiful and full of flavor, the empanadas themselves were soggy. He only managed to eat two of the three, as they were getting even soggier as time went on.
Both of our entrees were served with a visually unappealing plate of black beans and yellow rice.
Dining companion number three went with the Ropa Vieja (shredded skirt steak, onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes – $20). Her dish may have been the only good one of the night. It featured a heaping portion of shredded skirt steak which she said was very flavorful. She ended taking the rest of her dinner home.
Dining companion number four ordered the Chicharrones de Pollo (tender chunks of dark meat chicken marinated in garlic and oregano then fried until crispy – $18). He expected it to be boneless chunks of chicken, as would I based on the description, however, when it came out, these were not boneless. The plate featured very large chunks of chicken on the bone served with black beans and rice.
It was approaching 10:00 pm and while we were eating, the staff started sweeping the floor and sidewalk, stacking chairs, taking used glasses off our table in an obvious attempt to abandon ship immediately after we left. At one point I remarked that if the could take the chairs from underneath us they would. It wasn’t our fault that it took almost 90 minutes for our dinner to come out!
When our server brought out our check, the couple we were with put $90 in cash in the check folder and I told the server to put the remainder of the check on my credit card. He came back handing me a $20 saying he entered the number wrong and accounted for only $70 in cash with the additional $20 going on my card in addition to my part of the bill.
I didn’t want to go back and forth correcting the check, so we rolled with it and left, all in agreement that this was a terrible experience overall.
As we said out good nights and promised not to do Atlantic Avenue again, we headed to our cars. When I got to mine, there was one more surprise to make this night even more memorable… it was booted.
Yep. I paid for parking, had the receipt to show for it (luckily I kept it) but a big yellow sign was on my driver’s side window with a number to call and the notice that to have the boot removed it would cost $50.
I called the number, told the person who barely spoke English on the other end of the phone that I had the parking receipt to show I paid to park here, she said someone would be over. A few minutes later a guy showed up. I asked why my car was booted and he said, “this is a private lot.” It was then I showed him my parking receipt and after looking stuff up on his cell phone, he said: “I don’t know why the f&%k your car isn’t showing up here.”
He proceeded to take a picture of my parking receipt, remove the sticker from my window, and took the boot off my car, knowing he screwed up.
Now you know why I don’t usually go to Atlantic Avenue. And now you know why I will never go again.